With 14 runs to defend in the last over, the Kings XI seamer Arshdeep Singh was surrounded by Chris Jordan and the captain KL Rahul. Arshdeep was all ears as he was the previous time the trio had converged a few overs back. The plan then was for Jordan to bowl yorkers as he had to contend with short leg-side boundaries and for Singh to dig in the slower ones on the dry track to make use of the longer leg-side boundaries.
The pair stuck to the plan to drag the contest in their favour and Singh was intent on finishing it off on a high in the last over. He removed Sandeep Sharma with a slower-short ball and prised out Priyam Garg next ball with a slow cutter to seal the game.
It was for the first time in his IPL career that the six feet, three inches tall Singh was bowling the last over the innings.
In the six matches in this IPL, he has bowled 16 of his 19 overs in the powerplay or in the last five overs. In this game, in the 18th over, Singh had got the match-turning wicket of the well-set Vijay Shankar with a short-of-length delivery bowled from around the wicket. Singh has earned the captain’s trust that he can execute any plan. After their previous game against Delhi Capitals, Rahul had said, “To come and nail six out of six yorkers is a really good job”.
“You can’t have fear in this format,” Arshdeep tells The Indian Express.
“It’s a batsman-dominated format and the idea is to stop runs and make them play under pressure. I love the challenge of bowling in powerplay and death overs. I trust my slow balls and yorkers and that’s what (Mohammad) Shami bhai has also told me to believe,” says Arshdeep.
Working with truck tyres
In 2015, when Singh had approached the coach Jaswant Rai at his Sector 36 Academy in Chandigarh, the skill and love for variations was the first thing which Rai noticed but it also posed a problem.
“I was impressed by his height and the way he bowled the nip-backer. Initially, he would think about bowling different six balls in one over. The U-16 coaches will say that he was a bit erratic After some time, I made him sit down and told him that he has to be accurate first. We concentrated on him bowling bit short of good length and bowling for 2-3 hours at the same spot,” adds Rai. It was the feat of taking 27 wickets in six matches for Punjab U-23 team in the Col CK Nayudu trophy in 2018 that catapulted Singh to the limelight.
But he suffered a hamstring injury before the U-19 Challenger Trophy last November. “He lost some pace after the hamstring injury. In July, when we resumed training, the focus was to make his run-up a bit fast as due to the injury, his muscle memory was making him run in a touch slower. We worked on getting his arm rotation and run-up better.”
The next step was cross fit training to get ready for the IPL. “He told me to arrange for car tyres for the cross fit. After 15 days, he wanted truck tyres! And I arranged it from a kabaadi shop (scrap dealer). Now, see, he is running like new tyres in the IPL,” Rai says.
Picking Shami’s mind
“We had planned to bowl wide against power hitters like Russel and hit the hard length areas, with some swing, against batsmen like Rohit,” says Singh. “Use the slower cutters on slow pitches.”
In the time between matches, Singh has been picking the brains of Shami and other seamers. “To be honest, I have asked so many questions and sought tips in the last one and half months that they have started saying ‘Oh no, not again,” (laughs). I have been asking Shami bhai about how he keeps the seam really good and the kind of pace he gets. Sheldon Cottrell has told me about how to control the action as a left-hander. Chris (Jordan) always tells me to be accurate in death overs. One thing which all of them say is that I should not complicate things much. Every bowler is unique and you are good enough that’s why you are playing here,” says Singh.
Targeting increase in pace
His coach Rai believes that Singh can regain the pace he had. “He had touched 140 during the U-19 World cup and Challenger trophy and he can reach that pace again. I have been working on his wrist position and he can bowl close to 142-144 KPH. Last year, when he was picked up by KXIP, it was on the insistence of then coach Mike Hesson who believed that Arshdeep has a huge potential.
As for Singh, he has been a fan of Irfan Pathan and Wasim Akram and hopes to meet them one day. “I started as a pacer as I idolized Irfan Pathan sir after his hat-trick against Pakistan and would also watch Wasim Akram sir’s bowling. The way he used to swing the ball remains a benchmark for all. I hope I can meet them one day,” says Singh.